Statement issued by the Uganda Human Rights Commission and partners to the media to commemorate this year’s International Human Rights Day
Every December 10th, Uganda joins the international community to commemorate the International Human Rights Day which is significant to all humanity as this is the landmark day when the Universal Declaration of Human Rights was adopted in 1948.
This year, the Uganda Human Rights Commission, the UN Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights in Uganda, Human Rights Network, Uganda, and other civil society organisations including ACTV, ASF, Human Rights Centre, RLP among others, shall celebrate this day to re-affirm their commitment to the respect, protection and promotion of human rights for all in accordance with the National Constitution of Uganda and other binding international human rights treaties. This year’s celebrations will be held under the theme: “Inclusion and the right to participate in Public Life.’
This theme which has been adopted by all countries that are members of the United Nationa, derives from articles 19, 20 and 21 of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, and is in consonance with Article 38 of the 1995 Constitution of the Republic of Uganda which states that:
i) Every Ugandan citizen has the right to participate in the affairs of government, individually or through his or her representatives in accordance with the law.
ii) Every Ugandan has a right to participate in peaceful activities to influence the policies of government through civic organisations.
As we commemorate this important day, Uganda Human Rights Commission and partners note that emphasis on the role of citizens in public life cannot be overstated. As human rights defenders, we note that this can be achieved through active participation of citizens in issues of governance as provided for in the Constitution of the Republic of Uganda under Article 38. Uganda being a democratic country, its Parliament and other elective offices at districts and communities are the institutions through which the citizenry are able to participate in governance affairs, and the avenues through which their rights must be recognised and safeguarded.
There is therefore need to strengthen the citizens’ voice in the affairs of participation through their elected representatives in order to augment transparency and accountability in governance. We as human rights defenders believe that this should be in all aspects of public life without discrimination or exclusion. In an effort to achieve progress in this area, the Uganda Human Rights Commission and partners call upon government and all other stakeholders to step up the participation of citizens in public life in Uganda through but not limited to the following ways;
1. Provision of information about affairs of the State: Uganda enacted the Access to Information Act in 2005 in order to provide for the citizen’s right to access information from government bodies pursuant to Article 41 of the Constitution of the Republic of Uganda. Whereas there have been commendable efforts by government and other agencies to fulfill the provisions of this law, more needs to be done in order to realise the full enjoyment of this right. A lot of information pertaining to government affairs and service delivery has not been given to the citizens in a consistent manner, and this has undermined citizens’ efforts to keep their leaders accountable. There is therefore, urgent need for citizens to access information pertaining to governance issues and service delivery, in order to empower them to demand for services as well as accountability from government and their leaders.
2. Articulation of citizens’ concerns by leaders: As provided for in the Constitution of the Republic of Ugandan, citizens can participate in public life through elected representatives such as Members of Parliament, District leaders, Councillors and other local leaders. It is important that the persons given the responsibility to lead in these various capacities serve the greater good of the communities they represent at all levels by using their platforms to express pertinent issues from the electorate and in turn, communicate the feedback to them regularly and efficiently. The active flow of information between the elected and the electorate is at the center of a participatory democratic system and must be ensured. We therefore call upon leaders in their various capacities to endeavour to advance the aspirations of their electorate.
3. Free, fair and just elections: The multi-party system of elections in Uganda has cultivated the culture of democratic pluralism, and their regular occurrence has improved citizen participation in public life. However, there has been a general concern about the electoral processes and outcomes of some of those processes as has been evident in the numerous electoral petitions and by-elections. In spite of the numerous challenges that face the electoral body, we still urge that body to improve on the conduct of elections in order to increase citizens’ trust in the electoral process and outcomes, and also to give meaning to citizen participation.
4. Promotion of the principle of affirmative action: Inclusion and citizen participation should go beyond elections and politics to include the promotion of non- discriminatory policies that address holistically the issues of the citizens. We commend the Government of Uganda for being at the forefront of advocating and mainstreaming affirmative action for special interest groups such as persons with disability, the elderly, children, youth, minority groups, and women through the adoption of appropriate legislation, policies and institutional reform measures. We strongly appeal to government and other partners to continue with this policy which has over the years progressively addressed a number of challenges, brought to the fore human rights concerns and elevated the status of such groups. As we commemorate this year’s International Human Rights Day, we urge government to fully implement relevant legislation to cater for the rights and interests of such groups in order to fulfill the obligation of protecting the right to equality and non-discrimination for all persons.
As we prepare to commemorate this day in Uganda, the Uganda Human Rights Commission, the UN Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights in Uganda, Human Rights Network, Uganda, civil society organisations in Uganda and the Government of Uganda shall hold the following events and welcome the general public to attend them:
1) Today’s press conference to launch activities to mark the day and create public awareness through you (the media) on the importance of the day and the theme which is “Inclusion and the right to participate in Public Life.’
2) A Human Rights Sports gala to be held on Saturday 8th December 2012 at Makerere University Main sports grounds from 8:00am to 5:00pm. The sports gala will draw participants from Human rights organisations (Human Rights defenders), UPDF, the Police, Prisons and other corporate bodies.
3) A Human Rights Children’s gala to promote the inclusion of children, while building a culture of human rights awareness among them through thematic competitions in painting, poems and writing of short stories is currently going on in the different regions of Northern and Eastern Uganda. The final selection of the ‘best among the best’ will be held on Monday 10th December 2012 at Hotel Africana from 8:30am to 2:00pm. The Grand finale to crown the day’s celebrations during which prizes will be presented to winners will be held thereafter at the same venue starting at 2:00pm and will be presided over by the Minister of Education and Sports, Hon Jessica Alupo.
4) The above advocacy activities will be complimented by a media campaign on the theme of the year in the print, electronic and other media throughout the country.
You and the public are therefore all invited to these events.
Finally, the Uganda Human Rights Commission, the UN Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights in Uganda, Human Rights Network-Uganda and other civil society organisations in this partnership, re- commit ourselves to the respect, promotion, and protection of human rights in Uganda, and call upon the government, leaders and citizens of Uganda to use this day to reflect on our various roles and duties that will propel our country to even greater heights in the enjoyment of human rights for all, without discrimination or exclusion on any basis.
Thank You for Listening to me.
For God and My country.
Dr. Katebalirwe Amooti
Acting Chairperson/ Uganda Human Rights Commission
For and on Behalf of All partners